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Kudos Records – Twenty Years at the forefront of the Underground…

January 9, 2012 3 comments

This year sees the 20th anniversary of Kudos Records, a company founded in Kilburn back in 1992 by my very good friend Danny Ryan and his then business partner Mike Hazel (he of the Golden Girls fame).

Twenty years in dance music record distribution is an outstanding achievement and especially the last twenty, when sales of “physical” music (i.e. vinyl and cd’s) have largely migrated to the various digital formats of today. Kudos was one of the few small independents to successfully make the transition from physical to digital and it’s probably the success of the distribution side of the company, that has curtailed the output of the record label side.

So a huge congratulations to Danny and new(ish) partner Jim. I hope they achieve similar success, recognition and respect over the next twenty years, and as my own small celebration of Danny’s huge contribution to the UK’s independent music industry, I thought that as he nominated me the Official Kudos Records archivist many years ago, I would do something useful with my collection.

So without further ado, here are my thoughts on a back catalogue, which at 25 or so releases between 1992 and 2004 is not huge, but which without doubt represents an impressively wide and eclectic spectrum of sounds and artists… some of whom went onto to be almost famous…

KUD001Industry Standard: Rave On (1992)

To start the ball rolling, a little known production by the Hartnol brothers, otherwise known as Orbital… Mike had the connections (they had previously remixed his Golden Girls track) and Phil and Paul had the tune, and so another techno monster was let loose on the world..

KUD002Spinach: Rewind the Crystal Shells (1992)

A huge, punishing onslaught of sound heralded release number two… 4 tracks of beautiful noise from none other than Mr. Luke Slater… Set the machines to stun…

 

KUD003 – Pentatonik: Autonomous – Series One (1993)

KUD004 Pentatonik: Resolution – Series One (1993)

Two excellent 12’s from Sim Bowring in his Pentatonik guise. Lush, layered sounds taking the label in a new direction. I must admit that when I first got Autonomous, I couldn’t find the RPM, and as a result I played Catalonia too fast until Dan gave me the CD… Autonomous is also the first appearance of the now instantly recognisable flying K logo.

 

 

 

 

KUD005 Types: A Kudos Sampler (1994)

KUD006 The Kudos Digest: A is for Apple (1995)

KUD007The Kudos Digest: B is for Brocolli (1995)

KUD008The Kudos Digest: C is for Cherries(1995)

Four very fine and eclectic records. The Types sampler contains some of the biggest names of the time including Dave Angel, Sandoz and Scanner…  As for the Digests, as I remember it, there really was a plan to get to Z … although I’m not sure what the fruit/ vegetable would have been (zucchini possibly). This series was conceived by Danny & Mike as a way of collecting predominantly 12″ vinyl releases and issuing them on a limited edition CD release.

 

 

 

 

KUD009Jimpster: Perennial Pleasures  EP (1997)

KUD009RJimpster: La di da – Bullitnut Remixes (1997)

KUD010Jimpster: Interconnect EP (1997)

KUD011Jimpster: Messages From the Hub (1999)

A quartet of stunning releases from none other than Jamie Odell in his guise as Jimpster, heralded a new high for the label. Jimpster’s star was in the ascendance and spread across these two EP’s, debut LP and a 12″ remix from Bullitnuts were some truly wonderful tunes… deep, intelligent and very satisfying…

KUD012Unforscene: Remote Viewing EP(2000)

KUD014 Unforscene – The Sulston Connection EP (2000)

The first of a number of excellent EP’s from one of the “nu jazz” scene’s finest exponents. Comprising the core of Will & Ben Bower plus a selection of highly skilled support musicians, Unforscene would go on to become one of the most highly regarded acts from the Kudos stable, and this is where it all began…

KUD013Fila Brazillia: Brazilification (1999/2000)

Inspired by the success of the timeless collection that is Kruder & Dorfmeister’s K&D Sessions, Danny, Mike and Fila’s label boss Porky collected together as many remixes by Hull’s finest Lazy Beat exponents, Fila Brazillia as they could afford… The result was this outstanding double CD, which apart from their seminal rework of Busta Rhymes “Do My Thing” (unavailable due to greed) is choc full of Fila’s finest work… including Radiohead, Unkle, DJ Food, The Orb and Simple Minds…. Marvellous.


KUD015Jimpster: Seeing is Believing (2000)

KUD016Jimpster: Deep Down EP (2001)

Two more fine offerings from Jimpster. I was a bit of a DJ myself for a while and one of the records that never left my bag was the Deep Down EP. The last track, Jack in a Box was always a sure fire floor filler…

KUD017Unforscene: Pacific Heights (2001)

The excellent first Long Player from Unforscene was quite rightly, very well received upon its release in 2001. There are some truly amazing tunes here. The track I keep on returning to is Minus, with its rich, slow first half and more uptown percussive closing section, I think it has a real timelessness.


KUD018Various: A Little Night Music (2001)

A collection of “future underground classics” as the man says, with tunes from Jimpster, Baby Mammoth and Masters at Work.

 

 

KUD019Jimpster: Domestic Science (2002)

KUD020Jimpster: State of Mind (2002)

The final two releases from Jimpster for Kudos, were the eclectic and very well received LP Domestic Science and the single from it, State of Mind. Jimpster had set up his own label Freerange a few years earlier (1999 I think) which he not unsurprisingly, wanted to concentrate all his efforts on.

KUD021Unforscene: Trying (2003)

KUD022Unforscene: New World Disorder (2003)

As with Jimpster, and thanks to the exposure offered by their releases through Kudos, Unforscene were gaining a huge reputation and after delivering their New World Disorder LP and the Trying single from it, left to go their own way. My favourite Unforscene track “The World is….” comes from this record, a timeless piece of music and no mistake.

KUD023Various: Pork Chops (2003)

A celebration of Hulls’ finest label, Pork Recordings with a selection of their prime cuts, featuring two of my all time top Pork tracks Fortean Daze by Bullitnuts and Fila Brazillia’s mighty Pots and Pans (a tune that could easily lay claim to being in my 5  favourite records from the whole of the 1990’s)


KUD024Nick Luscombe: Flo-Motion Volume 1 (2003)

KUD025Nick Luscombe: Flo-Motion Volume 2 (2004)

The final two records that Kudos has bequeathed the world (up to now) were these two fine compilations. Mixed by the ever excellent Nick Luscombe, they offered a selection of some of the best downtempo and groovy vibes from the middle of the last decade…

So all in all a staggeringly impressive achievement, and three cheers to Danny (and Jim & Mike).

Long may Kudos continue to full my life with lovely music…

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Austin Industries Chess Set, 1966

January 9, 2012 9 comments

How about this as a contender for “one of the most beautiful things you’re likely to see today”….

It’s an extruded aluminium chess set from 1966. It was designed by Austin Cox, for Austin Industries, and manufactured in the States by Alcoa. The silver (white) pieces are natural finish aluminium whilst the black ones have been bronze anodised around their outer edges.

The set came in a hardwood, foam lined box which could be wall mounted apparently, and had a fantastic, blue perspex sliding lid. The pieces were all stamped on their bases and it looks like you could buy each set either separately or as a pair in a single box…

Very, very nice indeed… So if anyone finds a spare one in their games cupboard, please don’t hesitate to let me know….

A Lemon Jelly Lucky Bag

December 13, 2011 1 comment

We were looking for our last years stash of unused christmas cards over the weekend and I came across this rather wonderful forgotten thing…

The date: Friday 7th March 2003. The place: The Kentish Town Forum. The event: Lemon Jelly’s Patagonian Tour, and a marvelous event it was too. All flashy lights, crystal clear sound and Fred playing a cello…

I think we were all given one of these as we walked into the venue, but being the sad hoarder/ collector type that I am, I ended up with about 3 or 4 of them.. If you were there, you may remember seeing me at the end of the gig, I was one of several, rather drunk sad buggers, collecting everyone else’s droppage (it seemed important at the time): Postcards, pencils (with the helpful instructions “Lemon Jelly Doodle Machine” on the side) balloons, badges, fliers for a kids special matinee gig and an unused bingo ticket (I guess we didn’t win)

I’m sure I vaguely remember a year or so afterwards that one of these lucky bags was put up on eBay, and achieved in excess of £30, not bad for a load of old tat (lovely though it all obviously is)

Finding this has reminded me that I have still to write a post on Airside, easily one of my all time favourite designers. I’m actually a bit shocked and surprised that I havn’t got around to it yet, as I have records, t shirts, calendars, posters, books, loads of stuff from Fred and the team…. so watch this space.

An amazing find… An original Basil Spence lithograph of Coventry Cathedral from 1957

November 22, 2011 3 comments

I’ve written a number of times before about synchronicity & The Lattice of Coincidence, or how a sequence of events can be given greater significance than they may deserve (especially by me). Well here’s another one for you…

One of the most amazing things to have come out of writing this blog is that I’ve become friends with the Artist William Mitchell and his lovely wife Joy. After reading some of my posts, Bill got in contact with me and we’ve since met up a couple of times. He’s an amazing guy, still making art, still a bit of a raconteur. He’s obviously lived the life and worked all over the world, with several appearances on Tomorrow’s World and various other entertainment shows throughout the 1960’s, whilst latterly he’s worked for Mohamed Al-Fayed.

We got talking about his work for various Architects during the 60’s and 70’s and I told him I was struggling to finish an overly long post on the Architecture Exhibition of the Festival of Britain at Poplar, and that it had now divided itself into 2 parts, the second of which wanted to be just about Frederick Gibberd, one of our most succesful post war architects…

“Aahh Freddy”, said Bill “I knew him well…” and off he went telling stories of a perfect gentleman with a big moustache, who sounded like a thoroughly nice chap indeed and who he had worked with on several projects, including of course their Masterpiece, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. Bill also said that, amongst other respected names from this period, he’d worked with Basil Spence, and told me a story about visiting Spence’s home and seeing the fantastic model for the Coventry Cathedral, just sitting in his front room (I guess it was the one in this photo above which Sir Basil is showing to some school kids…)

It was this reminder of Basil Spence that prompted me to complete an unfinished idea for a post on some of his beautiful drawings, that I published on Saturday morning…

Anyway the following day, we headed off with some friends to Dulwich College to the Mid Century Modern Show to see if we could buy some more lovely (but unnecessary) things for our home. We all thought this years event was ridiculously rammed, and not as enjoyable as in previous years, but I’m so glad we went, because I quite literally couldn’t belive my eyes when I saw this…

It’s a truly wonderful, lithograph print of Spence’s beautiful chalk drawing of Coventry Cathedral, which I have only seen used by The London Midland Train Co. for their “Rebirth of Coventry” advert below. My print is about 700 x 940mm, is in perfect condition and is of a very high quality (in fact so good, I wasn’t initially convinced it wasn’t the original, so bright & life like are the chalk marks).

It came in what looks to my untrained eyes like a contemporary teak frame. I was told when I bought it that the picture was previously owned by the original organist of the Cathedral, and was given to him in the late 50’s when the prints were originally made. Of course I have no way of knowing if this is true (and don’t really mind anyway, it’s a nice story, but the print itself is more than enough for me…).

I just had to have it.. A huge, perfect Basil Spence print of Coventry Cathedral.. unbelievable.. I went and got A and asked if a) we could afford it and b) she would she want it up on the wall.. she said yes to both and after some slight haggling and a bit more worry on my part about the cost… I took the plunge and bought it.

Would I have been so keen to buy it if I hadn’t been thinking and writing about Basil Spence over the last few weeks.. possibly, I will never know. But I am so glad that I’ve got it, it makes me happy every time I look at it. And once I’ve reinforced the wall to take its ridiculous weight, it will look absolutely fantastic, taking pride of place in living room…

Tremaen Lamp Base

March 21, 2011 Leave a comment

We went to the Mid Century Modern Show at Dulwich College yesterday and although we couldn’t find the sideboard we were after, we did finally manage to get a large ceramic lamp base. We’ve wanted one for ages now (see previous post) and it seems our waiting has paid off…

Whilst it may not be to everyones tastes, we think it’s a fine object. It was made by Tremaen Pottery sometime between 1972 and 1978 and is from their Sculptural series, with this style known as Bowjey. The Bowjey style came in a variety of colours with ours being cream with greeny blue highlighting.

It stands about 16″ or 45cm high and is in perfect condition. We paid a bit over the odds for it I think, but then it was at a show and it was still a bargain, being exactly what we wanted… Now all we have to do is find a big shade to go with it.

We also ended up with this rather wonderful teak fish tray. A fell in love with him on sight and he just had to come and live on our living room wall, keeping all the other animals company.

Fabric CD’s

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Ever since we signed up for the very first Fabric CD release back in 2001,  we have looked forward to our monthly delivery of new music.

Some of it has been excellent, and some of it I have to admit, doesn’t really do it for us, but having last week received CD number 110 (a stunning D&B mix from DJ Marky) I thought I would use the opportunity to take stock of what can only be described as a monumental “physical” achievement in this digital music buying age.

The releases are divided into two strands: Fabric (representing a Saturday night at the club) and Fabriclive (representing Friday nights). Craig Richards (Fabric) and James Lavelle (Live) started the whole thing off and the two strands have alternated releases each month ever since.

The diversity of styles, sounds and artists that have contributed to these 110 releases over the last 10 years or so is truly impressive. I won’t go into all the details, but a full catalogue is here if you’re interested.

Another striking aspect of the CD’s is that of the covers. Much like Vaughan Oliver at 4AD, there has obviously been a wholistic approach to the cd sleeves with the designs being in short runs (6 covers initially but latterly 3) by differing designers. These designs are not representative of the artist or music within, but suggest a broader interest in design generally and add up to an impressive series of images when spread out on your living room floor…

I would like to say that we have every single release but we are actually one short: Fabriclive 53 Drop the Lime, which was never delivered to us. It’s release got caught up in the whole Matter collapse/ Fabric nearly closing nightmare last year, and this post has reminded me that I need to go and buy it separately. Worryingly I couldn’t find Fabriclive 37 (Caspar & Rusko) for the photoshoot… no idea where that’s got to.

Another sad fact is that me & A actually have doubles of the first 30 or so releases as we weren’t living together when we first started subscribing and wanted one each…

For the record, my all time faves of the series include John Digweed (F20), Steve Bug (F37), Wiggle (F28), LTJ Bukem (Fl46), Jaques Lu Cont (Fl09), Swayzac (F11) Ralph Lawson (F33), Surgeon (F53) and David Rodigan (Fl54)

No idea how long they can keep the monthly issues up, but we’ve come this far and rest assured, we will be subscribers until the end.

So a huge thanks to the Fabric Label for widening our musical horizons and enriching our CD collection over the last 10 years, long may they continue.

Vaughan Oliver & 23 Envelope

January 9, 2011 Leave a comment

When I went to university in the mid eighties, a whole world of new stuff opened up for me in terms of design and music. New people meant new recommendations and things to discover, and one of the first things that I got into in a big way was the 4AD label, home to such bands as The Cocteau Twins, Colourbox, Pixies, Throwing Muses, The Pale Saints & Dead Can Dance.

Almost as important to me as the music, was the packaging. Between 1983 and 1988, almost every record sleeve, booklet and all associated advertising  material was produced exclusively by Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson under the name 23 Envelope.

Grierson generally took the photos which Oliver then used as a starting point for creating beautiful, atmospheric and enigmatic images using a combination of fonts, filters and other effects (and all in pre-digital age please note…).

And these images seemed to so brilliantly reflect the music within, whether it was dark washes of atmospheric sound, noisy jagged guitars or just plain weird..

It won’t be a surprise to anyone reading this blog, to learn that I initially hoped to collect everything the label put out… however I only ended up with about 15 albums and associated singles before my grant money ran out… (records were a lot more expensive in those days), but looking at them again now for this post, I am still hugely impressed by what Vaughan Oliver achieved, which in my opinion was nothing less than a revolution in graphic design.

Some of it may look a little dated now, but the quality of workmanship and the scope of ideas can be in little doubt. I have a number of sleeves for instance that have artwork printed on the inside of the cardboard cover.. way over the top, no one could see it all properly unless you took it all apart…

But that’s what I like about it, much like Airside in more recent times (post to follow shortly) the overall concept and execution was seemingly more important than the cost of getting it made.

Sadly much of this approach has been lost with MP3’s and downloads, which I think is a bit of a shame for todays music collectors.

There’s some more of Vaughan Olivers work on the wonderful Hardformat site here…

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